Hipster Traveling: A Rough Guide

To be young and unique.

Emphasis on rough. Because if you’re hipster, you don’t play by hard and fast rules. Your mode of living is based on unwritten rules that you know because you’re hipster, not because you read it somewhere.

It’s still a puzzle to me, but it’s so interesting to live the carefree, cool life that hipsters do.  What better way to experience it than by traveling, hipster style. Here are some tips:

  • Skip the typical. What? No photo by the Eiffel Tower? If you’re hipster, you shouldn’t mind; or you should take a photo that’s as unique as your getup.
  • Speaking of getup, you should wear attention-getting clothes that do not necessarily come in bright colors. Most hipster go for the vintage look, but hipster girls can really go for the pretty and bold look.
  • Get inspired. Hipster traveling is all about being creative. A sculpture should raise questions about feminism, a street filled with people should inspire you to create a sculpture, and so on.
  • Be an advocate. No matter where you go, you should live out your advocacy. Whether it is saving the planet, supporting local music, or promoting equal rights for all, you should be a walking rally poster. Look for avenues to help; connect with organizations in the country or area that you’re visiting, and participate by extending your help. Being helpful never goes out of style, so they say.
  • Do something that most tourists wouldn’t. For instance, take a walking tour when everybody else prefers the bus – you’ll never know what you’ll encounter. Instead of watching buskers in New York, be a busker! Take a spot, play your guitar or do your awesome yoga poses, and just enjoy the experience.
  • Go vintage. A hipster appreciates the olden days. Find old books, first edition copies, old postcards, anything old that you can place on your cool workspace at home. Of course you’re a freelancer, it’s too mainstream to work in an office anyway. Make sure you check out the flea market, you might find a great looking fedora there.

Go cheap. A hipster wouldn’t order cocktails. He goes for the beer, the rough kind of drinks and food. He enjoys local culture more than anything, so he skips the five star hotel where you will meet tourists and employees, and chooses a family-owned hostel where he can chat with the owner and have a home-cooked meal. You can start by booking that cheap Air Asia flight to Cambodia, and by keeping in mind all the other tips listed above.

Travel Magazines to Check out

Aside from Facebook and the rest of the interwebs, where else do you look when you want some travel inspiration and information? I suggest magazines.

I love magazines, and you would too. There’s nothing like flipping the pages of a thick magazine filled with photos, trivia and tips; it’s like going through a trip yourself. The Internet simply cannot give that feeling of anticipation.

Also, magazines are well researched, super edited and excellently laid out for you. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t pay for them would you? So you pay for something and you really get what you pay for. With the Internet, you don’t pay so you also do not expect much.

I’m not saying that you wouldn’t find helpful information in the Internet, because you can. But reading a magazine gives a unique feeling that excites the traveler in you and makes you want to book a flight even if you’re only halfway through it.

Here are some international and local publications to check out:

International Titles

The reason why I was addicted to travel.

  • National Geographic. I remember flipping through the pages of National Geographic when I was a kid. The photos were superb, the information very well presented. (My eight-year old self could understand the text easily.) Even if you get back issues, the effect would still be the same – you’d ask yourself why you still haven’t made new travel plans.

  • National Geographic Traveler. While National Geographic presents places and the culture in them, there isn’t much information you can use for travel planning. Enter National Geographic Travel, the magazine that is as rich as the NatGeo magazine in terms of photos, culture and facts, but is also robust with travel tips and helpful information. Great for backpackers, the magazine packs loads of tips and insights you can use for that DIY trip to the exotic country you’ve been eyeing.

  • Travel and Leisure. Hailed as the world’s best magazine for travel, Travel and Leisure give a glimpse of the high life traveling. Whether you plan on taking the expensive route on your next travel or you just like some inspiration for your someday dreams, Travel and Leisure is definitely worth picking up.

Local Titles

  • Travelife. Travel plus lifestyle equals Travelife magazine. Like the international publication Travel and Leisure, Travelife delves into luxurious escapes that you can take abroad and also in the Philippines. The magazine also features business personalities such as ambassador and CEOs, and their philosophies in traveling. Yes, they have philosophies in traveling. Get inspired, get your copy now.

  • Juan Philippines. If you want straight to the point articles about the must-see places in the Philippines, check out Juan Philippines. It features destinations in each episode, with an extensive guide on what to do, where to eat and what to see.

  • Asian Traveler. A Philippine-based travel magazine that features destinations around the world, Asian Traveler gives a more relatable perspective since the contributors is fellow Filipinos. For instance, you’d most likely agree with their food reviews, since the writers have the same taste as you do.

Of course almost all airlines have inflight magazines, such as Cathay Pacific’s Discovery and Cebu Pacific’s Smile. But you won’t be able to read them unless you board their plane right? And you won’t board that plane unless you get inspired to travel, right? So yeah, get a travel magazine and get inspired today!

Camarines Sur Travel Itinerary

Image courtesy of CamSur WaterSports Complex

Camarines Sur was “placed on the map” because of the CamSur Watersports Complex, the first one in the country. It became the hippest place to be in and the new destination to go to. Add to that the islands of Caramoan, which became famous for being the set of Survivor US. Everybody wanted to see the island with their own eyes! Camarines Sur became the new buzzword CamSur. Here’s an itinerary that will let you make the most out of your time around.

Day 1: Settling In; Gota Village

It is best to travel to CamSur through a flight to Naga. Traveling by bus will take you at least seven hours; so by the time you get to CamSur, you’d already be dead tired. Plus, there are now a lot of cheap flights that you can book in advance! Choose an early flight so you can take your first day slowly. From Naga, you can take a cab to Sabang Port, where you can take a boat to Guijalo Port.

Take a slow lunch and then check in at your chosen accommodation, and then take an afternoon tour around Gota Village. After the tour, you’re free to spend the day the way you want to.

Day 2: Island Hopping

If Day 1 is slow, Day 2 is the opposite of it. But don’t worry, because it’s packed with activities that will release all your happy hormones. Board your boat at 6:30AM and start your full day of island hopping! Here’s a list of the islands where you should dock your boat:

  • Lahos Island
  • Honongan Island
  • Matukad Island
  • Tagbalinat Island
  • Minalahos Island
  • Cotivas Island
  • Manlawi Island
  • Mt. Carmel Caglago
  • Sabitang Lava Island

Make sure you wear comfy shoes, as some of the islands above are best appreciated by hiking to a certain point.

Day 3: CWC

Time to go back to Naga! Do your best to wake up and set out early for Naga, so that by lunchtime, you would already be ready for your watersports activities. If you start your trip at 6:00 AM, you would most probably arrive at Naga at 12:00NN, just in time for lunch. Head on to CWC after your energizing lunch and experience all the thrills until the afternoon.

You can then spend the rest of your day shopping for souvenirs or touring Naga City.  While some travelers spend only three days around Naga and the Caramoan Islands, you can opt for a four-day itinerary, so that you can be more relaxed during your trip. The decision is up to you. If you’re the type of traveler who is all for doing everything in one go, you can squeeze in all your activities into a three-day trip. On the other hand, if you’d rather take things slow, then a relaxed four-day itinerary is ideal.

How to Maximize Your Point and Shoot Camera during Travels

Photos are as easy as 1,2,3 shoot.

So what if you don’t have an SLR camera? It’s bulky and it’s heavy, said the bitter person without one. But instead of sulking in the corner and getting all sad about how we could take good photos if only, let’s just pick up our trusty point and shoot digital camera and enjoy the perks of not having to mind knobs and simply, point, and, shoot!

  • Shoot in a well-lit location. The sad thing about a point and shoot camera is that it is not as obedient to its owner as an SLR. So the only time you can rely on its abilities is during a well-lit day. Snap away during the day, especially when it’s sunny. Although you can use flash in a dark place, you’d most likely end up with a black background; much like taking a photo against a blank black wall. So manage your expectations and don’t expect that you will be able to see the cityscape as your background from your hotel’s balcony. But don’t be discouraged; just read on.
  • Read the manual before you take your trip. Just because it’s called point and shoot doesn’t mean that it’s all you can do with it. A lot of point and shoot cameras have settings that mirror those of SLR cameras. You can adjust the white balance (white what?), shutter speed (what’s shutter and why does it go fast?) and even the ISO settings (does that mean International Standards Organization?) of your point and shoot camera. To use these settings, read the manual. It will tell you everything you need to know.
  • Bring it anywhere even before your trip. You won’t be able to maximize your point and shoot camera during your travels if you’re not familiar with it. As you get to know the different settings you can use, you should also experience taking photos as you adjust the knobs and select the different “scenes” your point and shoot has. This will make it easier for you next time to decide on the best settings to use in certain situations. And when you get to your destination, use it like there’s no tomorrow. The moment you land on Caticlan Airport for a trip to Boracay, take photos of your travel buddies and of all the other interesting stuff you see.
  • Get to know basic composition techniques. Hey, you can use your smartphone in taking good photos, what more your digital camera? They say that the photographer takes good photos, not the camera. Prove it right by learning composition basics, things that aren’t dependent on the camera’s abilities, or lack thereof.
  • Process your photos. You’d appreciate even the poorest performing point and shoot camera if you know how to optimize photos using processing software such as Photoshop. Since your camera is limited, there’d be times when all you can do is compensate by adjusting some knobs in the computer. Check out PicMonkey.com for a sampling of all the fun that photo processing is about.

How to Maximize Your DSLR Camera during a Trip

Capture those moments with a professional touch

You’ve gone as far as purchasing a bulky and expensive digital SLR camera, so might as well go the whole nine yards by learning how to use it. I, for one, am a camera junkie, but not until I realized that photos are much better if I knew how to use my camera for all its capabilities. Seems to be something that you’d know out of common sense, but I kid you not when I say that a lot of travelers still lug heavy DSLR cameras yet shoot only on “auto” mode.

For all I know, you could be that traveler. I see them everywhere, sometimes with expensive professional cameras I can only have and hold in my daydreams. For the love of Canon, please maximize your cameras. It isn’t that hard anyway. Here are some starter points:

Know how to use your camera. On MANUAL mode. 

When you use your SLR camera on auto mode, it’s just like using any other type of point and shoot camera. If you’re not willing to invest time in learning how to shoot on Manual mode, then this is the part where I’d have to ask you to sell your SLR and bring a point and shoot camera the next time you travel. That should help you lessen the weight of your carry-on baggage, as all airlines, from Philippine Airlines to Cebu Pacific, naturally have weight limits for hand-carry items.

The manual mode of your SLR lets you take control of your gear. You get to decide the amount of light coming in; you get to decide how blurred the background of your subject will be. There are loads of cheat sheets and basic camera guides you can see in the Internet. Print out one of them and take it with you on your travel.

Get familiar with simple composition principles.

Composition rules will break your natural train of thought as you take photos. For instance, if you think that the best way to take a photo of somebody is to place them right smack in the middle of the frame, you are so wrong. You don’t want to waste a once in a lifetime moment (say, seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time) by taking an unattractive, poorly taken photograph! It’s time to move your subject a little bit to the left or to the right.

Practice.

There are loads of other composition basics you can easily master with some practice days/weeks/months before your trip. If you will only start learning how to use your camera on the day of your trip, you’d end up a frustrated amateur photographer rather than being a happy traveler who knows how to take good photos. Read up and give photography the interest that it deserves, so that you can have a trip worthy of your DSLR, and a DSLR worthy of yourself.

Dreaming of USA

Inasmuch as I want to encourage myself to go off the beaten track if I ever get the chance to travel to the US, I just can’t help but think of the many sights to see. I’m quite sure that with a country as vast and as beautiful as the US, I’m going to have to first prioritize the must-sees over the off the beaten track and hole in the wall types of destinations. In fact, I already have a list of my must-sees, based on the photos that I see online, and on how much I want to see them. Create your list and let’s compare notes!

I want to be a part of it, New York.

  • New York. Yes, for me New York is a single sight that I need to see before I kick the bucket. Blame it on the hit TV show F.R.I.E.N.D.S., blame it on the Jay Z hit Empire State of Mind, but New York tops my must-sees list in the US. I can already imagine myself seeing the city from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Iris and B Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. I can’t wait for my photo on the Brooklyn Bridge. *sigh*

The grandest of them all.

  • Grand Canyon. It’s not called Grand for nothing! The Grand Canyon has attracted local and foreign tourists throughout the years, and it sure does attract me good. Maybe it’s because of the many references to pop culture (hello 127 Hours!), but the Grand Canyon really deserves my Visa and airfare.

The subject of my travel dreams.

  • Grand Teton National Park. Another sight that has the word “grand” on its name, the Grand Teton National Park gives tourists a view that resembles the painting of the world’s best artist. Take the Jenny Lake route to get the best view of the Cathedral Group, a stretch of mountains that give the best subject for a landscape shot of the place.

Snow capped mountain, I like.

  • Mt. McKinley. America’s tallest mountain, Mt. Mc Kinley is worth all the flight, the expense and the time that you will give it. Its size and height causes it to always be shrouded by clouds, except in the morning. So troop to Wonder Lake early in the morning to get an unobstructed view of this majestic mountain. What’s more interesting is that it is located in Alaska, America’s Last Frontier and one of the most adventurous destinations in the USA.

Moments meant to be cherished but not shared, if you get what I mean 😉

  • Las Vegas. We wouldn’t have the saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” if the place isn’t epic. You’d have to admit that although you’re not much of a fan of casino, gambling and party, just the thought of going to Las Vegas is more than enough to get you excited. After all the movies and pop culture references you’ve seen, heard and read about this iconic place, who wouldn’t want to be in it?!

Because going to the USA takes more than just saving up, booking a Seair flight, and filing for leave, you need to choose your destinations well. As you apply for a visa, cross your fingers and hope that the Embassy allows you to marvel at the sights mentioned above. Best of luck!

The Ten Beach Vacation Essentials

After three days of continuous rain, I finally see the sun shining outside my window. Makes me want to pack my stuff and head to the beach. But of course I won’t do that, as mere mortals like me do not have the power to simply book a flight (it’s expensive to fly today) and cancel all the work I have to do for the next couple of days.

Lucky for me though, I can book a trip to the beach as early as now, and as affordable as I can imagine. The catch, however, is that I won’t have any baggage allowance. This means that I can only bring a duffle bag with all the stuff I would need. Allow me to present to you the ten things that I bring to any and all of my beach trips, things that are essential, easy to pack, and really cool.

A reliable camera to capture your beach moments

  1. A good camera: For me, it’s the lowest Canon EOS model, the 1100D. I bring an 18-55mm lens, as well as a 50mm for portraits. Sure it’s a bit bulky, but the beach deserves good lenses and excellent documentation.

I just love my bikinis.

  1. Two reliable pieces of swimwear. I make sure I bring two that are completely different in color and design, just so I won’t be bored at how I look.

Image from Victoria’s Secret

  1. Light cover-ups. I usually bring just one dress that doesn’t wrinkle, a pair of board shorts, and a loose tank top. I just mix and match based on my mood.

Protect your skin.

  1. Sunblock, insect repellant. My current favorite is the spray type of sunblock. The higher protection, the better. I also bring insect repellant for nights when I just want to lay on the beach under the stars and with mosquitoes flying around.

Who says you can’t be in two places at the same time?

  1. A book. All my beach trips are associated with a certain book. In this day and age that I seldom get the chance to just be still with a book, I make sure that I carry a paperback (so that it’s lightweight) to the beach.

Good vibes.

  1. A soundtrack. Just like a book, a playlist of great vacation songs is a must for me. Somehow, a certain set of songs give my beach trip its own identity, making it very different from the previous ones. My two Boracay trips, for instance, are far off from each other just because each has a different mood, thanks to the songs that I brought. If I’d recommend anything though, it’s got to be “All Night Long” by Jason Mraz. 😉

  1. A nice pair of sunglasses. Nice means it gives your eyes the protection it needs, it doesn’t give you a headache, and it makes you look cool and pretty.

Tip-top shape even on holidays.

  1. Necessary medicines. I’m prone to migraines, especially if I spend a long time under the sun (ergo, sunglasses), so I make sure I have at least five tablets of mefenamic acid.

Something to keep you warm.

  1. A small and light blanket. For laying under the sun, for walking under the sun, as a cover-up when I’m in my swimsuit, to keep warm in the plane (no domestic flight, whether Zest Air or PAL, offer blankets for passengers who need them), inside a van, on the beach during nighttime.

Lock it up.

  1. Plastic bags. When it’s time to leave and your swim pieces are still dripping wet, just dump them in a plastic bag and zip up your luggage.